When I first stumbled across the three new labels for Christian Moerlein’s new cans…I was thrilled to see the change. But the deeper I get into Moerlein’s new look, the more I really start to get pumped up for what they’re doing with this. I don’t keep it a secret that I love the design side of Cincinnati’s craft beer… In fact, the artwork of our local beer scene is a bit of an obsession with me. As our “older” local breweries take a step back, and reimagine, and rethink who they are, with it comes some really fun artwork, and can/bottle designs that get geeks like me excited.
I feel Iike I’m getting ahead of myself here… Let’s take a couple steps back first.
The New Look
“The new branding pays tribute to Cincinnati and Moerlein’s proud brewing traditions, while also providing a fresh face on our award-winning beers.” – Christian Moerlein Brewing Company
When I touched on this last week, I was thrilled to see that Moerlein was making a big push into cans. We all know that cans are a more superior vessel for getting beer into your house versus traditional bottles, and thusly, It’s big news to see a brewery the size of Moerlelin unpacking their new canning line, and pushing new labels for core beers through the steps to get them on shelves for consumers. I’m not sure that a lot of us as beer drinkers take the time to really look into what goes into the branding, and the artwork of our beers.
Sure… on the surface as a drinker I know that I can walk over to a shelf, and see the Moerlein beers, I’ll immediately recognize that the red can is OTR, the Green one is the Third Wave IPA etc. The simplicity of the color scheme is part of it’s brilliance. The modern design is simple when you’re stepping back, clear… clean… extremely definable as a Christian Moerlein beer when you throw it into the mix of dozens of other brands on the shelf next to it. But how do you take a clear, clean design and still capture a brand in that? I’m not talking about a logo or a color scheme… a brand as I’m using it is something that is much harder to define – it’s the soul of a brewery and their very personality. Let’s get in closer to get more of the bigger picture, starting with each label by itself.
- The beer itself might be a local staple. It was, in fact the first beer to roll out of the “new” Moerlein once the brands were acquired by the beer baron himself, Greg Hardman. But if we’re going to really try to nail this down, then what is OTR (as a beer) in it’s very core? When we turn to the description on the label, we can figure this out. The background image shows a historical Christian Moerlein Brewing Company building in Over the Rhine. As the text on the label reads, this beer is designed to harken back a time pre-prohibition. What we drink now is reminiscent of the craft beer of the time… what people just called beer.
- German heritage isn’t just a big part of Cincinnati’s history, by it’s very nature it’s part of this city’s history makes it a big part of Christian Moerlein’s history as well. Our city has a love of lagers that goes deep into our bones, because of who we are. I’ve talked a little bit about the role Christian Moerlein has played in regards to honoring the Rineheitsgebot (and as a little preview… since it is the 500th anniversary of the German Purity Law, I’m not done talking about it either…) and this beer is an homage to the law, the lager love… The people who make and have made this city what it is. Bright yellow like the summer sunlight, with a distinct German feel to the background image. This beer represents the culture of the people that make Moerlein who they are.
Third Wave IPA
- I have a hard time talking about beer history for too long before I have to mention the renaissance that we are currently in. When Moerlein’s label for ‘Third Wave’ IPA popped up I couldn’t hide my ear to ear grin. A bold green label showcases a background image of hop cones. A perfect representation of who the Moerlein of today is… Or really of who craft beer is today. It’s amazing to take a step back and look at this company over it’s entire history, and see who they are over time. This “third wave” of their culture is one that is pushing themselves to do things different. They push their brewing team to stay on top of the modern trends that fickle craft beer drinkers crave, and they do it so very well. What better to represent the Moerlein of today than a bold IPA?
When I reached out to the brewery, it was great to see they’re clearly excited about this new look, and the new move into their own cans (vs mobile canning) but I was especially happy to see that they get this other side of it too. It’s not only about what’s in the can that matters to the bigger picture.
If you look at the waves of who Christian Moerlein is, you can be part of a journey that explores what craft beer is. There are not a lot of breweries that have a part in this history that so many seek to honor. From the Over The Rhine Juggernaut that was started by Christian Moerlein himself, or to the 1981 idea to brew a beer that didn’t hide behind anything, that just tasted good. To a four phase plan to bring Cincinnati’s brewing heritage back to her streets, while creating a modern craft brewery here in the city. Christian Moerlein very well might be craft beer, and I’m amazed at the ability of their new designer to capture this.
If you think that the name Thommy Long is familiar, it probably should be. Not only did he come up with the logo for the Gnome, he’s done work for local breweries: Listermann/Triple Digit, Fibonacci, Municipal Brew Works, Taft’s Ale House, as well as designing for Brewhaus Dog Bones, Beer and Sweat, Local Bloggers Beer Mumbo and Queen City Drinks. This guy is a big part of the craft behind our Craft Beer.
When I found out that the new branding for these Christian Moerlein cans were from Lemon Grenade it all started to make sense. There aren’t many designers that I’ve met that have the ability to do what they do. You can see a few brands around town that really capture who the brewery is, and then you can find a few around town that are just abissmal as well. These are the first time, though that Thommy has gotten the chance to throw his work into the field of beer cans, and he was in his own words “Super excited to explore the new medium”. He went on to tell me that although they’ve got a lot of different beer labels coming out this year, getting the chance to work with Moerlein was certainly a highlight.
I pushed a little bit to see if we were going to be seeing any more Lemon Grenade work with Moerlein coming up, and I tell you what… Even compared to some of our local breweries and their tight lipped media savvy teams… Thommy Long is a tough lemon to crack. He wouldn’t tell me if we were going to see anything else from Moerlein – but my gnome sense tells me that if Moerlein is rolling out three flagship beers in cans, with an entirely new look, and they’re going to be rolling down the line of a brand new shiny canning line… it’s safe to assume that we’re going to see more in some capacity.
In conclusion… Congrats to everyone at Christian Moerlein… At Lemon Grenade, and all of us beer drinkers here in Cincinnati for getting the opportunity to a part of a beer scene that does things the way we do. I cannot wait to be a part of this ride in the months and years to come… Cheers… or more appropriately – PROST!
Note: Please head over to Lemon Grenade’s Facebook page and give them a ‘like’ – then bug them daily as to why the gnome logo is featured prominately in their showcase of designs. I kid… I kid… you don’t have to bug them daily… Just semi monthly should do the trick.